Eight More States Released from NCLB Mandates
By Tim Weldon, CSG Education Policy Analyst
Eight more states and the District of Columbia will have flexibility to adopt alternative accountability measures to those imposed under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind or NCLB.
NCLB set a goal that every student would reach proficiency in reading and math by the 2013-14 school year. Under federal waivers, which were authorized by President Barack Obama last fall, states will have the freedom to develop alternate accountability measures.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced May 29 he was granting NCLB waivers to Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education granted waivers to 10 other states; an additional 18 applications are under review.
In order to qualify for a waiver, states are required to demonstrate their ability to prepare students for college or a career. Connecticut’s application for an NCLB waiver assured federal authorities the state will implement common core state standards and new assessments aligned to those standards in 2014-15. As in other states granted flexibility, Connecticut’s plan establishes new accountability measures, including a more comprehensive system of measuring student academic achievement. It adds writing and science assessments to the accountability system, and it holds high schools accountable for graduation rates in addition to meeting benchmark test scores.
The waiver will give Connecticut greater flexibility in using federal Title I dollars and avoids a situation in which nearly half the state’s public schools would have been deemed failing by 2014, resulting in massive restructuring and possibly school closures. Finally, it creates a system that state leaders contend more accurately measures student achievement across all levels.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement saying the waiver will “ensure that Connecticut has the flexibility to implement a reform plan that fits our state, one that is not bound strictly by federal mandates.”
Leaders in other states granted federal waivers were quick to point out the burden the federal law placed on states and individual school districts in meeting adequate yearly progress.
“I fully support the fundamental goal of accountability, but I have never felt comfortable with the one-size-fits-all nature of NCLB,” North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Schools June Atkinson said in a news release, “These waivers allow us to better meet the needs of our schools and students while also giving clear information to parents about performance and progress.”
Under the new accountability system, the Rhode Island Department of Education will classify schools based on student proficiency, the degree to which schools are closing achievement gaps, school improvement and graduation rates, according to a news release. After classifying schools using these standards, the state Department of Education will identify which schools need support and intervention services.
“With our new system of accountability, support and innovation, we will focus on the specific problems unique to each school in Rhode Island,” said Deborah Gist, the state’s school chief.
Maryland’s interim state superintendent, Bernard Sadusky, said in a statement the waiver does not mean the state is turning its back on accountability and will continue to work to ensure all schools and students improve. “At the same time, we are pleased the U.S. Department of Education will allow us to funnel resources into those classrooms with the most vexing issues,” he said.
In February 2012, leaders of The Council of State Governments, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties and the National School Boards Association drafted a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Senate Committee on Education and the Workforce urging Congress to fix problems associated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reauthorize the law.